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Kerala: ‘Antiques’ dealer who boasted of high-profile links held for cheating

Monson Mavunkal, 52, was arrested by Crime Branch Police on Sunday based on a complaint from six people that he had pocketed Rs 10 crore from them over a period starting 2017.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
September 28, 2021 2:45:50 am
Monson Mavunkal

A SELF-STYLED antique dealer, who would boast of high-profile connections in Kerala, including politicians, senior police officers and celebrities, has been arrested on charges of cheating and forgery.

Monson Mavunkal, 52, was arrested by Crime Branch Police on Sunday based on a complaint from six people that he had pocketed Rs 10 crore from them over a period starting 2017.

Several photographs showing Monson with ministers Roshi Augustine, Ahammed Devarkovil, KPCC president K Sudhakaran, former DGP Loknath Behera, ADGP Manoj Abraham, IG Lakshman Gugulloth and former DIG S Surendran have come up on social media after his arrest.

According to the police, Monson, who claimed to have been in antique business for the past 25 years, had tricked investors into believing that he got Rs 2.62 crore from selling antiques to royal families in the Middle East. He said he was in need of money to clear legal hurdles to get the amount transferred from HSBC bank to his bank account in Kerala.

His home in Kochi, where the fake antiques and artifacts were kept, used to be allegedly frequented by senior police officers. One of the pictures doing the rounds is of former DGP Behera and ADGP Abraham during one such visit. Behera is seen sitting on a throne from Monson’s collection, which was claimed to be of antique value. He is flanked by the ADGP holding a sword.

Behera, who is now MD of Kochi Metro, and Abraham did not respond to queries from The Indian Express.

One of the complainants, K T Shameer, said Monson took Rs 60 lakh from him claiming to make him a partner in a proposed antique museum. “I and other investors got in touch with Monson through a friend, who made us give money to him. We saw senior police officials visiting his house along with their families. He boasted of high-profile connections. We were made to believe that Monson is a genuine person,” he said.

Yakoob Purayil, another complainant, claimed he had handed over Rs 25 lakh to Monson in the presence of former DIG S Surendran.

Surendran has denied the allegation, saying he had good friendship with Monson, but no transactions took place in his presence.

KPCC president K Sudhakaran also denied the allegation that one of the complainants had handed over money to Monson in his presence. “I know Monson as a cosmetologist and consulted him for treatment. He had told me that the antiques in his house were precious and worth crores. If he is a fraudster, what were the police officers doing at his house. I suspect the involvement of the CMO behind the allegation against me,’’ he said.

Crime Branch sources said Monson would drop names of senior officers when the complainants earlier approached local police. “He would call officials in front of the complainants and see that no action is taken on their grievances… He was arrested after the cheated persons filed a complaint with the Chief Minister in July this year,” a source said.

Monson, who grew up in an ordinary family in Cherthala in Alappuzha, had claimed to be a doctor specialised in cosmetology. The police have found that he had no professional education. He had worked as catechism teacher in a local church in the past.

Leading a life of luxury, Monson had hired a private security agency, and deployed surveillance cameras at his premises to give the impression to visitors that he had precious antiques in his possession. Top police officials ensured regular patrolling at his houses in Kochi and Cherthala.

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